There are many ways people have described the nutritional food-replacement sludge Soylent. Punishingly boring. Like watered-down semen. Motherboard's Brian Merchant, who lived off the stuff for a whole month, went with the kinder "granular baby formula."
We now have a peek at how Soylent wants to market itself, thanks to a leaked early draft of the company's brand book.
Soylent, according to the document, is not just a slurry-like product for people who don't enjoy nice things. Soylent is a philosophy. Drink, and be free from the tyranny of luxury. "Free your body," to use the company's slogan.
Because luxury, in Soylent's world, should be left to special occasions. A "rationalist" opts instead for "a product of quality with the weight of the scientific method behind it."
This appeal to a specific, rather extreme-sounding rationalism—touted as a kind of antidote to the sort of vanity espoused by "flavour without purpose"—is a key theme. According to the draft, "When you drink Soylent, you make a decision to put something of quality into your body, something that will meet all of your daily needs. It abstracts a physical necessity and uses the mind, not the gut, to satisfy it." Food for thought.
The rational mind, it adds later, opts for Soylent in the knowledge "that the pursuit of truth will be reflected inside and out."
Soylent clearly strives to position itself as not just a meal, but a mindset. And whatever food-lovers might think, it promises it's not about self-denial: "Austerity is a product of fear and insecurity. Efficiency is a product of confidence and self-control. Efficiency, not austerity, is the goal, brought about through Soylent, which is as balanced nutritionally as we can make it."
As for who Soylent wants to be, it's apparently aiming for Neil Degrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, "a charismatic scientist spreading knowledge to the public," and "Hemingway, not Proust."
Indeed, while it's easy to mock a beverage modelled on a scifi novel's foodstuff best known for its cannibalistic film reimagining, Soylent's Hemingway could well offer an example to science writers out there.
"Is the sentence as simply and clearly written as possible, while still respecting readers' intelligence?" a helpful checklist asks. "Does the sentence convey excitement without relying on hyperbolic statements and superlatives? Is the sentence showing rather than telling?"
If there's anything that epitomises the value of keeping things ruthlessly devoid of embellishment, it's Soylent.